Tender Mercies

  • Directors: Bruce Beresford
  • Producers: Philip Hobel
  • Writers: Horton Foote
  • Genres: Drama, Music
  • Actors: Robert Duvall, Tess Harper, Betty Buckley, Wilford Brimley, Ellen Barkin, Allan Hubbard

Mac Sledge (Robert Duvall), a washed up, alcoholic country singer, awakens at a run-down Texas roadside motel and gas station after a night of heavy drinking. He meets the owner, a young widow named Rosa Lee (Tess Harper), and offers to work in exchange for a room. Rosa Lee, whose husband was killed in the Vietnam War, is raising her young son, Sonny (Allan Hubbard), on her own. She agrees to let Mac stay under the condition that he doesn’t drink while working. The two begin to develop feelings for one another, mostly during quiet evenings sitting alone and sharing bits of their life stories.

Mac resolves to give up alcohol and start his life anew. After some time passes, he and Rosa Lee wed. They start attending a Protestant church on a regular basis. One day, a newspaper reporter visits the hotel and asks Mac whether he has stopped recording music and chosen an anonymous life. When Mac refuses to answer, the reporter explains he is writing a story about Mac and has interviewed his ex-wife, Dixie Scott (Betty Buckley), a country music star who is performing nearby.

After the story is printed, the neighborhood learns of Mac’s past, and members of a local country–western band visit him to show their respect. Although he greets them politely, Mac remains reluctant to open up about his past. Later, he secretly attends Dixie’s concert. She passionately sings several songs that Mac wrote years earlier, and he leaves in the middle of the performance. Backstage, he talks to Dixie’s manager, his old friend Harry (Wilford Brimley). Mac gives him a copy of a new song he has written and asks him to show it to Dixie. Mac tries to talk to Dixie, but she becomes angry upon seeing him and warns him to stay away from their 18-year-old daughter, Sue Anne (Ellen Barkin).

Back home, Mac keeps quiet about his emotional pain, although he wonders aloud to Rosa Lee why his once sorry existence has been given meaning and, on the other hand, his daughter died. Throughout his mourning, Mac continues his new life with Rosa Lee and Sonny. In the final scene, Sonny finds a football Mac has left him as a gift. Mac watches the hotel from a field across the road and sings “On the Wings of a Dove” to himself. Sonny thanks him for the football and the two play catch together in the field.

Breaker Morant

  • Directors: Bruce Beresford
  • Producers: Matt Carroll
  • Writers: Screenplay, Jonathan Hardy, David Stevens, Bruce Beresford, Story, Kenneth G Ross
  • Genres: Drama, History, War
  • Actors: Edward Woodward, Jack Thompson, John Waters, Bryan Brown

Breaker Morant concerns the murder trial of three Australian Army officers of the Bushveldt Carbineers serving in South Africa during the Second Boer War (1899-1902). Lieutenants Harry “Breaker” Morant, Peter Handcock, and George Witton are accused of the murder of one Boer prisoner and the subsequent murders of six more. In addition, Morant and Handcock are accused of the sniper-style assassination of a German missionary, the Rev. H.C.V. Hesse. Their defence counsel, J.F. Thomas, has had only one day to prepare their defence.

Lord Kitchener, who ordered the trial, hopes to bring the Boer War to an end with a peace conference. To that end, he uses the Morant trial to show that he is willing to judge his own soldiers harshly if they disobey the rules of war. Although, as Major Thomas mentions in court, there are great complexities associated with charging active-duty soldiers with murder during battle, Kitchener is determined to have a guilty verdict, and the chief of the court, Lt. Colonel Denny, supports him.

The causes and occurrences relating to the trial are developed. Morant’s execution of the Boer prisoners was revenge for the mutilation and death of his friend and commanding officer, Captain Hunt. Enraged by the incident, Morant led an attack on a Boer camp, where a Boer, Visser, wearing Captain Hunt’s khaki battle jacket was captured. Morant had him executed on the spot. (It was later proved that the mutilation of Hunt’s body was done by black witchdoctors, and not Boers as Morant believed, and that Visser did not wear any of Hunt’s clothes.)

A summary at the end of the film reveals what later happens to some of the characters. Major Thomas returns to his native Australia and continues his civilian law practice, which is confined to estate planning and wills. Witton serves three years of his sentence, then is released after a national outcry. In 1907 he writes a book entitled Scapegoats of the Empire, an account of the Breaker Morant affair (it was reprinted in 1982). Witton’s book proves so inflammatory and anti-British that it is suppressed during both world wars.

Driving Miss Daisy

  • Directors: Bruce Beresford
  • Producers: Lili Fini Zanuck, Richard D Zanuck
  • Writers: Alfred Uhry
  • Genres: Comedy, Drama
  • Actors: Morgan Freeman, Jessica Tandy, Dan Aykroyd, Esther Rolle

It is 1948 and Mrs. (“Miss”) Daisy Werthan, a 72-year-old widow, lives in Atlanta, Georgia, alone except for an African American housemaid named Idella. After a driving mishap where her Chrysler automobile is totaled, Miss Daisy’s son Boolie tells her she will have to get a chauffeur because no insurance company will insure her. She refuses, but Boolie is determined to find her one. Meanwhile, she is stuck at home and is unable to run errands or visit friends.

Boolie finds a man named Hoke Colburn, who had driven for a local judge until he died, and he decided to remain in the area rather than accompany the widow when she moved away.

Miss Daisy at first refuses to let Hoke drive her, going so far as to walk to the local Piggly Wiggly. It is revealed that her reluctance to be driven around is because she is embarrassed. People might think she is either too old to drive, or so well off that she can afford a driver.

Daisy comes to accept Hoke and the fact that she needs him to drive her around. Miss Daisy finds out that Hoke cannot read, so she teaches him how to read. Over the years Hoke drives Daisy in a succession of vehicles including a Hudson Commodore and a series of Cadillacs. When it became time to trade in the car for a new vehicle, Hoke often purchases the previous car and uses it as his personal vehicle.

Two years later, in 1973, the family home is sold, and Hoke has given up driving. Hoke is now 85 and Miss Daisy is 97. Boolie and Hoke meet at Miss Daisy’s house one final time before the new owner takes possession, and they drive over to the retirement home to visit Miss Daisy. The movie ends on Thanksgiving with Hoke feeding Miss Daisy a piece of pie.

Double Jeopardy

  • Directors: Bruce Beresford
  • Producers: Leonard Goldberg
  • Writers: David Weisberg, Douglas Cook
  • Genres: Thriller, Drama, Mystery, Crime
  • Actors: Tommy Lee Jones, Ashley Judd, Bruce Greenwood

Nick Parsons (Bruce Greenwood) and his wife Elizabeth (Ashley Judd), wealthy residents of Whidbey Island, borrow a friend’s yacht and set off sailing for the weekend. After becoming drunk, Libby falls asleep and wakes up to find her husband missing and blood all over her hands, clothes, and the boat’s floors. A Coast Guard vessel appears and Libby is spotted holding a bloody knife she found lying on the deck. She is apprehended, tried, and convicted for the murder of her husband.

Libby asks her best friend, Angela Green, to look after her son Matty for the duration of her prison sentence. When talking with Matty during a phone call from prison, she hears him exclaim “Daddy!” right before the line goes dead. Libby realizes that Nick could still be alive and living with their son and attempts to get some investigative help. Distraught by the futility of these attempts, she is consoled by a fellow inmate who suggests that she serve her sentence and wait for parole, upon which time she could track down and kill Nick without consequences due to the legal doctrine of double jeopardy.

Libby is paroled after six years and begins searching for Nick and Matty while living in a halfway house under the supervision of Travis Lehman (Tommy Lee Jones), a parole officer. Libby violates her curfew and is caught breaking into a building to try and get Angela’s records but manages to escape from Travis and continue her search. Recognizing an art work in a newspaper photo and tracing it through a dealer’s database leads her to New Orleans, where she finds Nick living under an assumed name. Libby confronts him during a party at his hotel and demands he return Matty to her in exchange for her silence about his real identity.

Nick agrees to bring Matty to a meeting in a cemetery. However, Nick uses a decoy boy to distract Libby, knocks her unconscious and locks her in a mausoleum. Libby wakes up and manages to escape. Meanwhile, Travis has become suspicious of Nick’s death and begins to believe Libby. The two team up to try and send Nick to prison and argue with him in his office. In the ensuing melee, Nick shoots Travis but is shot and killed by Libby. Travis promises to help Libby get fully pardoned, as he now has evidence that proves her innocence. Libby and Travis then travel to Matty’s boarding school and mother and son are reunited.